1 March 2010

To Blackfriars

for a very useful Liturgy Conference. It is not for me to blab on about papers which will be published in the form in which their authors desire them to see the world. But the last one had an interest beyond its subject. The speaker argued that the close connexion between Sunday and the Resurrection is less securely early than we have always thought, and is the result of the appropriation in the Great Church of some ideas of Marcion. I am far from sure what to make of that, but I can see some attractions in the proposition that 'Pascha' referred to the Passion of Christ; remember that big homily of Meleto of Sardis ("Pascha from paschein"); S Paul's emphasis on Christ our Paschal Lamb being sacrificed for us; S Leo's usage of the word Pascha to refer to the Crucifixion (and see my post on When does Lent begin for mathematicians?).

This general approach could fit in with Jacob Neusner's emphasis on the Institution of the Eucharist as a deliberate sacrificial replacement of the Jewish sacrificial system; and would follow on nicely from a Margaret Barkerish idea that the antecedents of Christian worship should be discerned more in the sacrificial system of the Jewish Temple than in fellowhip meals or synagogue services of the Word. So we would see the Sunday Eucharist as, right from the start, a distinctively and unambiguously sacrificial enactment at the heart of Christianity. So Good Bye to dafties like Luther, Calvin, Cranmer, and Buchanan. And, for that matter, to some of the spawn of Bugnini and all that 'Spirit of the Council' rubbish about the Eucharist being essentially a meal. Thank heaven that the C of E got it right at the 'Reformation', with the unambiguous statement of the Convocation of Canterbury in 1559 that "In the Mass is offered the true Body of Christ and His true Blood, a propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead".

Dom Gregory Dix, the masterly mystagogue of our Patrimony, wrote about the Easter Vigil: "It appears that in the Roman rite c. A.D. 200 the lessons included Hosea 6 and the account of the Israelite Passover in Exodus 12 ... the paschal liturgy of Asia Minor agreed with that of Rome at least in including the lesson from Exodus ... it is probable that the points on which their paschal liturgies agreed in that period are independent survivals of a rite drawn up at a very early date indeed ... nothing could more clearly indicate the close connection of the christian and jewish 'passover' than the choice of this lesson. There followed a lection from the gospel of John, the account of the death and resurrection of our Lord ... the choice of lessons is in the exact spirit of S Paul's phrase 'Christ our passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast with joy' " It was Dix's view that this liturgy was a "liturgy of 'Redemption' rather than a commemoration of the historical fact of the resurrection". He regarded the separation of the observance of the Death from that of the Resurrection (both being seen in primarily historical terms) as part of the 'Historicisation' of Liturgy, leading to the invention of Good Friday and the transference to that day of the readings from Hosea 6 and Exodus 12.

This reading of the situation by Dix has been under a bit of a cloud in recent decades. Perhaps it's due for a revival.


Michael McDonough said...

Fr. H,

I just want to toss a "dissenting voice" into the tight constellation of Fathers echoing "pascha from paschein": St. Augustine. Clearly, Augustine was not the premiere liturgist of his era, yet he makes this point explicitly (either in a letter or in the Tractatus in Ioh. Ev., #??), stating that it comes from the Hebrew, not the Greek.

Perhaps a sign that even the Fathers didn't always agree!

William Tighe said...

This sentence seems a bit confused:

"The speaker argued that the close connexion between Sunday and the Resurrection is less securely early than we have always thought, and is the result of the appropriation in the Great Church of some ideas of Marcion."

For "Sunday" substitute "Pascha" and it makes sense, but as it stands it doesn't. See my:


("Passover to Easter: On the Origins of the Primary Feast of the Christian Church")

and, for more detailed background, Thomas Talley's *The Origins of the Liturgical Year* (1986, 1991).

Rubricarius said...

I must have been fading fast as I confess to my mind blurring during the last paper of the day.

Your presentation of the ideas and thoughts are a great clarification.

Curtis said...

His second letter to Januarius.

Sir Watkin said...

"the Eucharist being essentially a meal"

This Bugnini-ish oppostion of meal to sacrifice always struck me as odd. Likewise the protestant opposition of communion to sacrifice.

For these are not opposites of sacrifice, but intimately linked to it; which is why (inter alia) we may not eat meat sacrificed to idols (meal + sacrificed victim = communion with the god).

Meal and communion are sacrificial language not anti-sacrificial.

Fr John Hunwicke SSC, said...

Indeed, Sir Watkin. The root Deipn-, which the unwary think implies a simple supper, is thoroughly sacrificial in the Egyptian papyri invitations to sacrificial meals.

Acolytus said...

This would appear to endorse the account I read some while ago about the origins of the classic Sunday rite of the semi-double, which the Church has recently abandoned at its peril. (Not everything that seems old hat or which one doesn't understand is de facto bad and to be cast off). The author urged that a double was a day that combined the normal daily course of psalms and scripture with a complete commemoration of some saint or mystery and then went on to say that the semi-double was the normal course with ‘something added in commemoration of the Lord’s resurrection’ for the Sunday. This also fits well with the pattern of Byzantine Sunday matins. At the time I thought it odd that ‘the normal course’ needed ‘something adding’ to commemorate the Lord’s day.
Now, I have completely forgotten what i was reading but i seem vaguely to recall that it was something in support of the dear old Anglican Breviary and I am fairly sure that it was written in the 50’s. Are old theories making a comeback, or was this always good scholarship? Or is this barking and old nonsense is making a comeback? It still seems the best explanation of the origins of the double /semi-double rites.

Michael McDonough said...

Thank you, Curtis.

Jesse said...


The idea of a "double" arising from the addition of extra vigil on top of the ferial/common psalmody certainly has legs. There is an excellent (and still entirely current) article by the late Raymond Le Roux on the development of the offices for Christmas and the Circumcision out of the original double-office of Christmas: "Aux origines de l’office festif: les antiennes et les psaumes de Matines et de Laudes pour Noël et le 1er janvier", Etudes grégoriennes 4 (1961), 65-170. The same is implied for other feasts in one of the early Ordines Romani, but I can't remember which off the top of my head.